Electronic waste is growing at a staggering rate—Americans alone chucked an average of 65 pounds of old electronic goods each last year—and it is set to surge another 33% within five years unless consumers and producers change their ways, LiveScience reports. Most of the waste ends up in developing nations, and those countries plus the former Soviet bloc now produce more electronic waste of their own than Western nations, according to a new map that tracks the problem worldwide for the first time.
The world produced around 54 million tons of electronic waste in total last year, researchers found, and though it can be valuable—a million old cell phones can yield 53 pounds of gold and 550 pounds of silver, Reuters notes—recycling rates remain low and where e-waste is recycled, it is often done so in a way harmful to both the environment and workers' health. The rate of waste is so high because engineers are constantly creating innovative designs to lure people to buy more, an earth sciences professor tells the Toronto Star. "Why won’t these same smart people also find a way that electronics can be used longer or reused in the best way, too?”